Monday, September 26, 2011

A Shameful Betrayal of the Public Trust

            I’ve been to professional conferences where the food provided by a catering company has been outstanding. Of course, the company I worked for at the time paid about $500 a day for me to attend. The lunches and snacks were a nice touch, but mostly I remember the speakers I heard, the “free” materials I received from vendors, and the useful information that helped me improve my job performance. Professional conferences can be great; I highly recommend going to them if your company will pick up the tab.

Sure, they look great! But would you pay $16 for one?
            Unfortunately, I have never been asked to attend a conference hosted by the U.S. Justice Department. I hear that they provide $16 muffins and $8 cups of coffee for their conference attendees. Is there something so special about any muffin that you would consider spending $16 for one?  I thought not.

Professional business conferences are run by companies that want to make a profit. The price to attend must be what companies are willing to spend to send employees. There must be enough attendees to make the conference worth having. Ridiculous expenses, such as paying a bakery $10 per brownie, must be avoided like the plague. In the end, the total expense of running the conference must be less than the total amount paid by the participants. What’s left over is profit. Profit is good.

In the course of 2 years, the Justice Department spent a whopping $121 million dollars on conference expenses. What’s up with that? It may come as a shock to you, but the U.S. government doesn’t run their departments as businesses are run. U.S. taxpayers pick up the entire tab for Justice Department conferences. Each and every penny of the $121 million dollars spent on $16 muffins came right out of your pocket.

Now we’ve been hearing stories just like this one for years. The government pays $20 for a hammer that costs you and me $5.99 at Home Depot. The government pays $8 for a cup of coffee that you and I can get for $3.50 at Starbucks. The government pays $16 for a muffin that costs you and me 75 cents at Publix.

The next time you eat a 75 cent muffin, consider the $15.25 extra that your government blithely spends for each muffin. You and I deserve to have that money given back to us.

But don’t expect that reimbursing taxpayers for outlandish expenses is going to happen anytime soon. President Obama thinks that more of your hard-earned money is needed by the government in order to solve the current economic crisis. I think not! I respectfully suggest that he immediately reduce spending by $60 million dollars a year by cutting out Justice Department conferences. Using taxpayer money to buy $16 muffins is a shameful betrayal of the public trust.


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